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Bobcat playtime!

All of the animals here at The Virginia Living Museum are here because they are unable to survive in the wild.  For various reasons, they have been determined to be non-releasable.  Because of this, in order for them to be content as captive ambassadors for their wild counterparts, we spend a good amount of time creating enrichment activities to keep them engaged in a somewhat normal activity.  Enrichment is a process in which we research and think up activities for the animals that recreate experiences they would encounter if they were in the wild.  Enrichment can come in several forms.  It can be something that would encourage the animal to search around in it’s home for a “prey” or food item as if they were hunting.  It can be an extra food treat placed in the exhibit when they are let out for the day or it can be an item that we toss into the exhibit for them to “hunt” down and enjoy.  Even though we have been seen placing items in the exhibits from the boardwalk, this is not something that just any random visitor should do on their own.  The items that we choose to place in the exhibits have been researched and picked out because they are safe for the animals.  Most items would typically be something the animal would be able to find in their natural environment or if an item is “unnatural” looking, it’s picked out specifically by the keepers after doing research and consulting with other keepers to make certain the item isn’t going to be harmful to the animal.  One of the most interesting activities we have come up with is referred to as “Scent” enrichment.  Often, we will pick out different types of scents to see if the animals respond to the scent by rubbing against it, or rolling in it, or just sniffing it. It might be a scent such as cinnamon, vanilla, basil or oregano, or maybe even catnip.   Even though this is a simple form of enrichment, in the end, it’s something different in the animal’s environment and it gives the animal a moment to pause and experience something that is unusual from the everyday exhibit.  One of our most popular scent enrichment items is a very strong men’s body spray. Many of the animals are attracted to the scent and will come over to investigate.  The bobcat is one of the most intense investigators when this body spray is sprayed in various areas throughout  her exhibit.  She will often sniff the area that has been sprayed and will immediately start to roll in the scent.  Next, she will rub her head all over the feature in the exhibit that has the body spray on it and then she will sometimes grab the leaves or hay in her paws off of whatever substrate the spray has been placed upon and pull it in close for a better whiff.


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